Brazilian youth leaders aged 12 to 19 are using arts and communication to show that another kind of development is possible for Brazil. In an area located in the Amazon rainforest called Cabelo Seco, a neighborhood in the city of Marabá in the federal state of Pará, they are part of the collective Rios de Encontro (Gathering Rivers), which promotes cultural activities in the community with a focus on sustainable energy, natural medicine, and education. This year, they created the Radio Arraia, a grantee of Rising Voices 2014 that broadcasts jingles about the group's activities around town.
In this part of the country, a series of hydroelectric dam projects and the extraction of minerals are part of the Brazilian plan for growth. For example, the short jingles they create are played on the radio talking about alternatives to the hydroelectric dam of Marabá, which critics say will flood the nearby town of São João and disturb the lives of the residents of Marabá and the southeastern part of Pará if it is built.
Listen to the jingle “I Want Solar Energy” by Radio Arraia:
The Rios de Encontro community seeks to promote sustainable social changes through various projects. They have worked with the African-descendant community of Cabelo Seco since 2009, and have already mobilized 380 families there. The outskirt area, once known for its violent drug trafficking, has become a reference for cultural and ecological events in the region.
Rising Voices spoke with the educators and adult coordinators of the group: Manuela Souza, 40, and Dan Baron, 57, creators of the Institute Transformance, which has worked with various communities around the world, and Ana Carolina de Souza, 13, Evany Valente, 15, Pablo Diego, 15, and Sandoval Maia, 13.
After three months of research, the young people launched the “bici-rádio solar”, a bicycle with sound equipment attached to it that is fully powered by solar energy. It is through the bike that they want to take the jingles to the residents of Marabá.
Pablo Diego is one of the young people in charge of the radio bike. “I believe that we will educate people to not destroy the environment, to not flood our town”.
The production of jingles began last year, even before Radio Arraia started. For Manoela, there is still more to come:
We want to expand our activities with the radio bike. The teenagers have already created videos about community leaders. This year, we taught courses about living history and community radio. With Rádio Arraia, we have been encouraged to set up a community radio online in the Amazon.
The Rising Voices microgrant will help the community add this digital component to their work.
When it is time to create jingles, each of the youth coordinators speak or play an instrument. The material is then edited on the computer by Dan Baron, along with the young leaders.
While Evany takes care of the musical part, Sandoval is the one in charge of the radio program. Both are musicians: he plays clarinet and she plays a great deal of instruments, besides teaching guitar and saxophone.” Evany inspires me and Manoela is giving me support in coordinating the jingles production. We have to take the Radio idea very seriously. Soon, in addition to the jingles, we will be doing interviews,” said Sandoval, who is already learning how to edit the jingles.
For Évany, the collective aspect is the best thing about the creative process. “In the group, one motivates the other.”
Other micro projects
Besides Radio Arraia, the collective Rios de Encontro also have set up other microprojects called Latinhas de Quintal (music), Afro Mundi: Pés no Chão (dance), Cine Coruja (cinema), Rabetas Videos, Social Journalism, Bicicletadas pela Vida (Riding for life), Bibliotecas Folhas da Vida (Library Leaves of Life) and Roupas ao Vento (about gender). The Radio spreads the word about all these cultural activities in the community.
With the help of Ana Carolina de Souza, 13, Evany also coordinates the Cine Coruja. Everyone does a little bit of everything in the end. Ana Carolina works with medicinal plants as well as leads the project Roupas ao Vento, which seeks to raise awareness about the issues of gender violence.
For Dan, these young people are very courageous to speak out publicly and raise the question about the hydroelectric project and the waterway in the region:
Here, to speak publicly is so dangerous that keeping silence is the best way to survive. They are very aware young people and artists, not ‘activists’ as we know it in the sense of this word. We are using the radio as a way to raise awareness and encourage communities who have been victims of exclusion and poverty due to the mega projects in the Amazon.